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ISD deals with many terror threats, not just JI: Jaya
Zakir Hussain
Tue, Apr 15, 2008
The Straits Times
ONE year before the Internal Security Department (ISD) moved in on Jemaah Islamiah (JI) operatives plotting attacks here, its officers were busy closing in on another clandestine terror network.

That was in 2000, when 13 men were rounded up for raising funds and holding other activities in aid of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

Most of them were professionals in their 30s and 40s. Their leader was a naturalised Singaporean, who was served with a two-year restriction order limiting his activities.

The LTTE, or Tamil Tigers, is a terrorist group that wants an independent homeland for Sri Lanka's Tamil minority.

The group popularised the use of suicide bombs and had a squad of female bombers known as the Black Tigers, one of whom killed Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1991.

Suicide bombing was later adopted by groups such as Al-Qaeda and the JI in attacks like those in London, Madrid and Bali in recent years.

Yesterday, Deputy Prime Minister S. Jayakumar, who is also Co-ordinating Minister for National Security, cited the LTTE as one of several security threats that ISD officers have dedicated themselves to fighting.

He urged Singaporeans not to forget the ISD's long record of keeping Singapore secure, despite the escape of JI leader Mas Selamat Kastari in February which had 'blotted its copybook'.

Other threats ISD officers have devoted themselves to fighting, he said, included the communists who were active in the 1960s and 1970s, various communal and religious extremist groups, as well as international terrorist groups such as the Japanese Red Army (JRA) and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).

In 1974, four terrorists from the JRA and the PFLP tried to blow up oil storage tanks in Pulau Bukom.

When they failed, they hijacked the passenger ferry Laju and held its five-man crew hostage. Two escaped.

After six days of tense negotiations, the hijackers were given safe passage to Kuwait in return for the remaining hostages.

But the JRA continued operating companies here as a front for terror operations well into the 1980s.

In the 1990s, Middle Eastern terror group Hizbollah also recruited five Muslims here through religious classes and asked them to photograph the American and Israeli embassies. The five refused.

But Hizbollah operatives continued to carry out surveillance of the Singapore coastline, although nothing came of their plans.

Last year, several LTTE couriers were arrested in Singapore. One of them was later deported back to Switzerland, according

to researcher Shanaka Jayasekara of Australia's Macquarie University.

Dr Rohan Gunaratna, head of the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research, said the ISD has been effective in tracking extremist groups and dismantling their fund-raising and procurement networks.

'It is well established and recognised by analysts that the Malaysian Special Branch and the ISD are the two most professional security and intelligence services in South-east Asia,' he said.

'If not for the ISD, Singapore would have suffered a significant terror attack in 2002. It was the ISD's discovery and disruption of JI and its operations that prevented many attacks in the region.'

zakirh@sph.com.sg

 

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